Thursday, August 17, 2017 19:23

Cast Blog: Big Tom

March 31st, 2015

Big TomI am Big Tom, and I am Pittsburgh’s Old Man of Rocky.

If you read most of these blogs, you will see folks talking about their first Rocky experience, and for most it’s been within the last 5 years. My first Rocky experience was in 1986. So I want to talk about Rocky from a different time. At the time, I lived in Western Massachusetts. Every Saturday, I went to our local gaming store, the Tin soldier, to play Dungeons and Dragons. Well, one day three of the older guys (as in High School Seniors and first year college folks), Chris, Richard and Tom, kept doing all of these weird in jokes to each other. Finally, they explained that they had been to see a movie where you could yell lines back at the screen and it was really fun. Of course, I had to check this out. So, a few weeks later I convinced my parents to let me join them. So I went to Rocky for the first time. There was no cast, and not a lot of folks in the theatre, but they knew the call backs and it was a hilarious experience. I was hooked. I would see Rocky a few more times before finally heading to Pittsburgh for College, but I still hadn’t seen it with a cast.

Arriving as a CMU freshman, I was soon advised of the existence of Rocky at the Kings Court Theatre in Oakland, and naturally I went to check it out. I was an overweight 17 year old kid who had known exactly 1 openly gay person in their life, but something kept bringing me back to this weird movie about perverted aliens. There was a cast at that time, but it was not yet the JCCP. That cast didn’t even have a name. It didn’t need one. That cast and show was absolute magic to me. I attended for several months, getting really good at the call backs and trying to get friendly with folks. I wanted to perform, but I had no performing experience and a bad self image. Finally, I worked up the courage to ask the cast director, a gentleman named Adolph, about joining the cast. He laughed and told me “I was wondering when you would finally ask”. The next week I began training as Dr Scott. Back then, there was no video to train from. You trained at the show by watching someone else do it, and then you got put in a show. If you were lucky, you had a sound track to work with. Mine was on a cassette tape. I started to perform. I made friends. I started staying out late at parties with cool people having interesting conversations. It was a growing experience. At that time, Rocky was a big party scene. After every show, we would have a brief get together, then head to someone’s apartment to party until the morning. There were a lot of drugs and alcohol, which didn’t interest me at all. But there were also a lot of people and perspectives I hadn’t encountered before. It was a wonderful time of growing for me and questioning my world.

Unfortunately, while I was having wonderful success as a Rocky performer, I was failing as a student. After two years, a combination of immaturity, lack of focus and an undiagnosed sleeping disorder dictated I would be taking a year off. So I headed home to Western Massachusetts. I learned that there was a Rocky cast an hour drive away in Connecticut and I soon was making a weekly commute. My friend Chris who helped introduce me to Rocky was still going there on occasion. Tom had left for college and not returned. I quickly joined the cast. It was a very different experience than Pittsburgh. It was not a party scene, and it was not as friendly. A few months after I arrived we removed the cast director in a very ugly coup d’tat because the only thing everyone could agree on was that we hated him. Back then, casts didn’t have governments and elections, they had a director who ran things until they didn’t want to run things anymore. So if the director was bad, it would end up in an ugly situation. A new director was chosen, and Rocky got fun again. I made friends. Real friends. I learned what true friendship meant. I also had my first true, deep crush, which was not at all returned. I made mistakes and I learned what forgiveness meant. I grew up in so many ways. I wish I could say my “Perks of Being a Wallflower” period happened in Pittsburgh, by my time of growing and growing up happened in Connecticut.

Something else that was different back then was that being gay, or being associated with gay people, was not acceptable. Sodomy was still illegal in many places. So being part of Rocky really was a subversive thing. Although I am straight, I made friends who were gay and trans in Rocky. So I got an education in that struggle. I have had the experience of watching homosexuality go from being illegal, to immoral, to grudgingly accepted, to actually having a real chance at full legal equality.

By the time a year had passed, Rocky in Connecticut was dying. Many in the original cast had dropped out for a variety of reasons and the theatre management no longer wanted Rocky. So no props and no support for the cast. Chris had dated a girl in the cast and had a bad break up, so he had moved on. It was a very sad goodbye when I finally returned to Pittsburgh, punctuated by my attending the wedding to the girl I had crushed on.

But return to Pittsburgh I did. To find no Rocky. The Kings Court had closed and the Hollywood hadn’t opened yet. I managed to contact the remaining cast, but it had changed. Adolph was gone and his successor had also left Pittsburgh. Terry Thome was now in charge. Terry kept us together as a cast. He got us to the Hollywood. So I got to be part of the first cast at the Hollywood. In some ways it was like old times, but the energy had changed. It was still a great thing, but different. Part of that was the change in people, and part of that was the change in me.

Over the next years, I would fade in and out of the scene for a variety of reasons, especially job related. For a long time the only job I could get was night work. So I would have to work when I wanted to Rocky. Rocky was always a part of my life though. I watched it change and grow. The cast became The JCCP. The cast manager became an elected position and Rocky became a turbulent democracy. The age of video began, and you could get a copy of Rocky on VHS and rehearse at home. People got better at their roles. The Hollywood became one of the best casts in the country. I cheered, I did callbacks, I occasionally performed. I failed out of college again and started putting my life together. Then the Hollywood closed its doors.

Rocky would go through ups and downs for many years after that. I didn’t get involved. I was putting my own shit together. I was certainly keeping track and seeing it when I could, but something wasn’t right. Looking back, I realize it was that most of the casts had a lot of internal tension and it bled into their shows. I also had my own head to put on straight. I would finally get my sleeping disorder diagnosed and treated and start turning things around. However, I still could not find a comfortable place in Rocky. However, even as Rocky was becoming a background issue, it was still helping me. The confidence I gained as a performer lead me to do Stand Up, then Improv, and then live theatre. It also got me involved with Scarehouse, which has brought me a small measure of fame and a huge amount of personal joy. None of those things would have been possible if it hadn’t been for the lessons I learned being in a cast. Things would change when Rocky got to the Oaks. By that time my sleeping disorder was diagnosed and under treatment and I had a job that actually paid my bills and left me with a few bucks in my pocket. Mikey had taken over the cast. I had known him through the scene, and he was truly passionate about getting Rocky back on track. I was at a point in my life where I had time and energy to put into it. I joined up and I started performing again. DVD made it possible to rehearse at the push of a button. So I could gather with a new generation and we could learn together in a living room. The magic returned. It wasn’t the social scene it had been before, but the sheer joy of performing Rocky came back. For a little while it was the late 80s again and I was having the same rush as the first time I got on stage.

The Oaks would eventually decide Rocky didn’t work for them and Rocky floated for a while. Mikey had to stop directing the cast because he got a new job and had to devote his energy to that. For a few years there basically was no Rocky and no Rocky scene in Pittsburgh. That greatly saddened me, but I was not in a position to do anything about it. My own life was busy and good, and I didn’t have the energy to make it happen. It took the energy of a new generation of performers who, without a theatre, decided Rocky needed to be a thing again. They built a new cast and began approaching theatres. They held shows in people’s back yards. It took a lot of time and a lot of work, and there were some miss steps along the way, but that group got us back to the Hollywood.

Which brings us to today. I am still here doing this thing I love. With a cast that are also friends. And in the end, that is what always pulls me back to Rocky. There is a place, on a late Saturday night, where I can go, scream my fool head off, run around like an idiot in lingerie, and have people actually enjoy it. Some folks ask when I will stop doing it. I can tell you that. When I stop loving it. When will that be? I don’t know. But when that day finally does come, I will walk away with my head held high, grateful for everything this wonderful experience taught me.

I just realized, I forgot to mention what happened to Richard, the third person who introduced me to Rocky. Richard was that one gay man I knew before coming to college, and started me on the path to understanding that gay was ok.

Richard died from AIDS in 1988. He’d gotten sick and died shortly after I went to college.

I came up in a different time. It was a time of change, and I hope we gave your generation some better things. I will always cherish my time in Rocky, good and bad. I am grateful for what it taught me and what it made me. However, there are some things I will always look back on with sadness. That’s ok too. If you can feel sad about it, it’s because it means something. So my final comment to the new generation of Rocky, and every generation that comes after, is that you will have your ups and downs, your victories and your struggles. If you learn what all of those things have to teach you, you will always find joy in this strange thing we do.

Cast Blog: Halloween Jack

March 6th, 2015

Halloween JackHello and welcome to another edition of the blog from the JCCP, a Rocky Horror shadowcast in Pittsburgh. they call me John-with-an-H, but secretly I’m Halloween Jack. I heard the name in the David Bowie song Diamond Dogs, and you’ll discover it suits me.

Before joining the JCCP family, I had previous experience with acting. My first role was Bert Bacteria in a kindergarten play about dental hygiene. I took acting and singing classes throughout the k-12 spectrum of schooling, and graduated from Bethel Park, lettering in theater and choir. After school, I also participated in a couple community theater projects in Washington, PA. I went to school for special effects, getting my degree from the Tom Savini program in Monessan. While there, I helped construct the haunted house Terrormania. I designed and acted in the dining room for two years, Schizo the Clown the first year and the Mad Hatter the next.

I first saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show on tv, then my family moved closer to Pittsburgh and I found out from some drama club friends that Rocky Horror was playing in Dormont. I was 18 when I first saw Rocky at the Hollywood Theater. It was a Halloween triple feature, and I won a costume contest so it’s one of my favorite memories. A lot of my favorite memories have been made because of this movie.

Besides acting, I also sculpt and write. I  have a novel called Myth’s Treasure, and I self-published with money I raised at Zombiefest with my  jewelry and glowing clay things.  In 2013, I had a rather great day at Zombiefest. My boyfriend came to help at my booth, and I dressed him up like Baron Samedi. After the festival, I packed my tent and inventory and drove to Scarehouse, where I was meeting several friends from the JCCP.   I was still in zombie makeup myself, and it was fun getting reactions from people in line. When our group reached the door, I asked if I could lead. it had been quite some time since I was in a haunt I never visited before, so everything was new. It was spectacular, and one of my favorite days.

I’ve been in cast for nearly three years and I’ve been Brad, Dr Scott, the Crim, Columbia, a Transylvanian, and I picked Eddie for a Hat Show.  For my first show in cast, I was a Wonder Woman/Betty Monroe, then Heinz Ward, then the Incredible Hulk for an Avengers takeover. I like the challenge of being several roles for one show. I’ve also had the opportunity to be several people for the Grease  sing-alongs, Colonel “Honey” Mustard for Clue, and I’ve had the challenge of being Moloch and Satan for Reefer Madness, which also let me work some special effects magic into a show. I made a few props for those shows, as well, such as the herb garden and Sally’s head. I’m glad that I could bring my fx talents with me when I joined, because there have been times when someone grabs me and says “I need you to make me a zombie!” and I love those times. I whipped up a Necronomicon with some latex, cotton balls, and an unused photo album for our last zombie show. Each character was playing homage to a different zombie thing. Our host was Ash from Evil Dead, and I was Dr Scott Ashford, a reference to the wheelchair-bound genetician looking for his daughter in Raccoon City. Unfortunately I was infected with the T-virus and mutated before the floorshow, and when I was activated I revealed a jacket I made with pool noodles, an oven mitt, and balls of various sizes. The line “for the thrills!” was followed by the audiences squeal as they saw the eye on my shoulder the size of a volleyball, surrounded by smaller clusters of eyes in the shredded bubbly musculature. My right arm was grotesquely exaggerated into a hand ending not with fingers but bone spikes sixteen inches long. It was fun offering it to Riff to shake after he shot Frank. I love making scary shit. I love that this group gives me opportunities to do so.

I grew up feeling like a weirdo. I mean, besides collecting Madballs and Garbage Pail Kids, I was also gay. Discovering Rocky Horror gave me my first dose of gay horror. I didn’t know they could be combined! It’s hard enough being pigeonholed a splattergeek, but imagine the exacerbation of adding homosexuality? In a sports town??  Imagine Clive Barker in Liverpool.

This is Halloween Jack in Pittsburgh. This was my blog. If you didn’t like it, come to a show and tell me why.
Bring friends.
Bye

Cast Blog: Tits McGee

January 27th, 2015

Tits McGeeGreetings and Salutations! Tits McGee here! Ok, so I guess it’s my turn to “spill my guts” about what being in a Rocky Horror Shadowcast, specifically with the JCCP, means to me. Well, there are several paths I could take on this, because it involves several parts of my life.

Ok, so let’s start with a little back story. (Insert squiggly lines and harp music) My former career was in professional theatre as a costume builder and Wardrobe Supervisor. I used to say, “I dress naked people for a living.” I had a great time traveling to different states, meeting incredible people, and being a part of a lot of fabulous shows. I even met a few Broadway actors and actresses whom I shall never forget.

Sadly the theatre jobs finally ran out in September of 2011. They’re all seasonal so it’s nearly impossible to find a steady job in that field. After my last gig, I decided to settle in Pittsburgh. Ok, I didn’t pick Pittsburgh specifically, but I was living with my parents at the time (Yeah, great feeling when you’re 27…NOT!) and they had just moved to Pittsburgh to live closer to my brother and his wife, so I came along. Things were pretty grim for the first six months. I wasn’t making any friends, I had a pretty lousy job, and it took me until March of 2012 to finally get my own apartment.

Then a wonderful thing happened. In May of 2012, my dear friend Jaime from the New Jersey shadowcast “Home of Happiness” told me that there was a Pittsburgh shadowcast known as “The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players.” I jumped at that. I thought that even if they just wanted someone to help out with stage crew, it was better than nothing! So I immediately emailed the then President of the cast, Bettie D., and begged her to be a part of the cast in some capacity. I got an audition a month later, and was finally made a full member of the cast! I still consider this to be the turning point of my life. I went from having almost no real friends, (aside from my bestie and my biological family) to having an entire second family! My fellow cast and crew members have become as dear to me as my own biological one. They accept and love me for who I am, not who they think I should be.

As a member of the JCCP, I wear a lot of hats, literally and figuratively. I guess the first one would be, of course, as an actress. Second would be as a costumer. In case you haven’t heard, yeah, I make costumes. I made the JCCP’s Spacesuits and Columbia tailcoat. The final one would be as a friend/family member.

Any person of a larger body type can tell you that being in a Rocky Horror Shadowcast can start out by being rather daunting. I mean, when you live in a society that shuns people who are larger than a size 6, you kind of get used to the assumption that no one wants to see you with your shirt off. Therefore, playing a role like Janet can seem impossible at first. Thankfully I’m in a cast who laughs at such adversity. They actually cast me as Janet for my very first role. That turned out to be the best possible choice for me. I’m not really a “girly” person normally. So playing Janet really took me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to see what I was capable of. She’s now one of my main roles.

My other one is Magenta, which honestly will always remain my favorite. Mags is both me and not me. I like to think I have Magenta’s sensuality and lack of “bubbly” personal traits. But I’m not as uncaring as she can be for anyone other than her brother. She also allows me to be more graceful than I normally am in my real life. I like trying out the other roles now and then, just to keep things new and interesting, but those two will always be my main ones.

Shadowcasting is a dream come true for me. I always loved acting when I was in college, but after that, there weren’t really any opportunities for me to perform. There was no time when I was a costumer, and I never really had the “cojones” to audition for any professional theatre anyway. So having the opportunity to perform twice a month really is a dream come true for me.

On to costuming! While I was working in theatre, I learned a great deal about costume construction and maintenance. After the theatre jobs ran out, I was afraid that the skills I had obtained during my years as a theatre costumer would go to waste. Fortunately, I found the JCCP. I discovered once I was in the cast that pretty much no one in the current cast had any sewing skills beyond the occasional button or sequin.  They had been making do with either thrift store pieces or they had to save up for an expensive custom-made piece.  I offered to make certain costume pieces which my cast mates needed desperately. No one in our cast is wealthy, so I only asked for them to pay for the cost of materials. After that, it became a matter of need. My cast had been without Spacesuits, the gold costumes Riff Raff and Magenta wear at the end of the film, for over two years. They had been waiting for them to be custom-made by another Rocky Horror costumer for that period of time. I offered to make them myself for the fee they were going to pay the other person, which they accepted. Thankfully I was able to finish them in time for the first show that Stephen Chbosky (Author/Director of “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”) had come to since completing the film.

A year later we needed a new Columbia tailcoat. Some of our regulars may remember that our previous coat was way past its prime by the time it was replaced. It is a costume piece worn by all of the people who perform as Columbia in our cast. This piece holds a special place in my heart because I was able to be creative with it. There is no truly screen accurate pattern for that certain style of tailcoat, so I had the opportunity to improvise and adjust a similar one. The fact that multiple people of varying sizes would be wearing it was also a major consideration. The final factor was that it had to be a coat that would last a long time. The “screen accurate” tailcoat was made by sewing individual wavy lines of sequins onto a really thin fabric. Obviously that wasn’t meant to last years of doing the “Time Warp.” So I improvised by finding a pre-sequined fabric that would last a lot longer. So far, it’s held up pretty well.

Thanks to the lessons I learned from these experiences, I got up the courage to start selling certain costume and art pieces online. I now have an Etsy store under the name Menyalion. This is the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Menyalion I mostly stick to costume pieces which don’t require too many measurements. So for now I offer accessories for the most part; like Magenta’s apron and maid cap, Crim’s ascot, Columbia’s bow-tie (if I can ever find decent pink sequin fabric again), and so forth. I also do custom orders for costume pieces and artwork. A few of you may remember that I painted the Rocky Horror characters for a fundraiser a couple of years ago.

The final hat I wear in the JCCP is as a friend/family member. I know many of my castmates have stated this in previous blogs, but I cannot emphasize enough how much this cast means to me. Nowhere else have I felt so included, nor relied upon for all of the right reasons. As I stated earlier, this is a group who loves me for who I am, not who they think I should be. I never feel like I have to try to live up to their expectations.  WE ARE FAMILY! (Try getting that song out of your head now.)  We give as much love as we receive, if not more.  Everyone in this cast knows that there will always be a shoulder to cry on, a person to laugh with, and plenty of hugs within arm’s reach. Seriously, there are a LOT of hugs, which honestly is my favorite thing in the world. I can tell you this from experience. There’s nothing like getting a hug in thanks, love, sympathy, or even simple greeting or leave taking. So on that note, I leave you with eternal love and of course, hugs for all!

Best wishes,
Tits McGee

Cast Blog: Sideburns

January 5th, 2015

SideburnsI feel like I should start with an introduction of myself. Most of you know me as Sideburns, the dapper lady in a suit that does an exquisite Macklemore impression. I have been in cast for 3 years this past November and was going to see the shows for a year or so prior to that. A few random things you may not know about me is that I aspire to be a barber, I’m currently living that server life, and I have a cat named Nation Mckinley.
When I got asked to write this months blog, there was an immediate blank in my mind because I didn’t want to write something that was considered average. All of a sudden, I was flooded with ideas on what I could do and the possibilities were endless. I could write about my body issues, anxiety issues, gender identity issues, etc., and how this show and this cast, has helped me learn to deal with and cope with it. Honestly, it has helped me with all of those things, which makes it nearly impossible to narrow it down to just one of them.
So let’s be real here for a minute, the first thing that comes to my mind when I think of my fellow Junior Chamber of Commerce Players cast, is the word “family”. There are so many people surrounding you that are from all different walks of life and backgrounds. Just to name a few, the JCCP has cast members in the service industries, teachers, and hair dressers. Somehow this weird show has brought us all together when under normal circumstances, we probably would not know each other. Ever since I joined this cast, I have been through some of my highest and lowest points, and these people have seen me through all of them.
Bringing me back to this, I say family in the most intense kind of way because there is no chance in hell that they could just be considered just friends. When you think of a family, you think of the parental type figures that you can lean on, the family members that you only see during holidays, and the brothers and sisters that annoy the shit out of you but at the end of the day you still love them unconditionally. We spend our holidays together even if it is not actually on the holiday itself (we are usually putting on shows for yinz guys!), we get too drunk together sometimes, there are family dinners on a decent basis, and we go to cons together for our family reunions!
On the other side of that coin, we also fight like a family.There have been many times where we end up getting into these stupid arguments that don’t actually matter and cut off all communication for 3 whole hours. This is the side of this cast that most people don’t get to see and to be totally truthful, it is never a major thing. We all know when to tell each other that they are being assholes and when to cut the shit. I really think that’s why we all get along so well.
For example, a few years ago, it seemed like everyone in this cast was fighting. It lasted for months and then finally, shit exploded. After the dust settled, everything was okay and we weren’t butting heads anymore. Ever since there has been nothing as detrimental and things go pretty swimmingly!
There is nothing I wouldn’t do for this little family of mine, and I am proud to have them as my non traditional kin. We are the group that takes the outcasts or the downtrodden, maybe even people that don’t have a real family that loves them and accepts them and makes them “ONE OF US!” when they feel like there isn’t another option. You have to have a certain level of comfort with people that you spend massive amounts of time running around in your underwear with, to be honest. It is kind of like that relative that you can talk about all your weird piercings and sex with.
I really have found so much love and belonging with The JCCP. I know that they accept me for all of my quirks and I love all of them just as much for all the things they are. Every single one of them leaves me in awe and my life has changed for the better for knowing them. Long story short, if there is ever a need for family and for that comfort of home please come up to us and talk to us at hour home away from home at The Hollywood! Better yet, you can even join us and see exactly what I’m talking about!
Truly,
Sideburns

Cast Blog: Aphrodesia

December 9th, 2014

If you were to ask anyone in this cast to describe me, they’d most likely say pretty…or gay. They might even say pretty gay. But it wasn’t always like that. See, before this cast, I my self- confidence was way below average and I couldn’t comprehend my sexuality. It took a long time for me to actually be comfortable in my own skin.

Let’s start off with being pretty. I view myself as the prettiest princess to ever walk the earth. I’m a goddess. If I were to change my cast name now to something that suited me better (and was easier to pronounce) it’d be Princess. I’m royalty and deserve to be treated as such.

Growing up, I never viewed myself as pretty. I essentially hated myself. I was such a funny looking child with jacked up teeth, thick-rimmed purple tinted glasses, and an oddly shaped face. I still thought I was better than everyone though, for some weird reason. There was nothing attractive about me. I actually didn’t really start thinking I was attractive until after the braces came off in 10th grade. But even after that, I still hated myself. I hated my stomach, my thighs, my nose, my mouth, my tits-everything.

I felt zero self worth, and it showed. I landed myself in 2 emotionally and verbally abusive relationships. I just went for the first guy to call me pretty and it didn’t matter how badly they treated me. The worst part about it was that they aint even cute. And they definitely weren’t then.

But then I got to college and everyone wanted to sleep with me. I started to realize that there actually was something special about me. I was a very standard beauty-long, wavy red hair, bright blue eyes, big ass tits-the usual.

I thought that I had reached a level of confidence where I could do anything and still feel pretty. I was wrong. Way wrong. I chopped off all my hair. Pro-tip, if you know nothing about cutting hair, don’t do it yourself. I cried for weeks on end about my hair. I got it fixed up, but still thought I looked like a 12 year old boy. It was awful.

But, after I joined cast and started dancing around in front of random strangers half naked, I started to gain more and more confidence. I started to fake it until I made it. I started talking about how pretty I am and pointed out all the things I liked about myself. It wasn’t until one day, 2 summers ago, one of my friends called me gorgeous and I responded, telling her that I knew that, and she just stopped and looked me dead in the eye and said, “You know, that’s what I like about you. You’re gorgeous, you know it, and you’re not afraid to say it.” That’s when I knew that I made it.

Now on to the gay part! Currently, I’m a flaming homosexual. Girls are so pretty. I love everything about them. I’ve always loved everything about them. But, there was I time when I thought I was straight. I was never opposed to dating girls; I just didn’t actively search it. I checked out girls all the time, had my girl crushes in high school, and compared the pretty to handsome ratio between the girls and boys in my school (there were way more pretty girls than cute boys, just in case you were wondering). It wasn’t until college when I started to explore bisexuality. I realized that heterosexual women didn’t view girls as I viewed them. And I embraced it. But, I had still only dated guys. It wasn’t until after I had slept with a girl that I realized that I liked girls A LOT more. Like, men just didn’t really appeal to me after that.

Unfortunately, I really hurt my best friend and whom I thought was my soulmate at the time when I realized. And it really sucked losing someone so special to me because of it, but that was just the beginning of a lifetime of struggle ahead of me. I’ve gotten called a dyke by random men on the street, my relationship with my grandmother will never be where it used to be, and I’ve had other family members harass me for it. And that really hurts too. I knew that not everyone will accept it, but I didn’t expect those close to me to completely deny it. I had such a liberating feeling when I unlocked this secret level of myself, but it automatically was shattered when the people around me forgot the person I was am and turned me into a heathen. The most heartbreaking thing I’ve encountered is being told by someone who has done so much for me my

entire life and always supported me that she was “devastated” by who I am and then having people do everything in their power try to change something that doesn’t need changed.

But, with that being said, I do have an amazing wall of support behind me. When I came out to my mom, I saw the look of relief on her face because being a lesbian means no accidental pregnancies. I think she’s the only mother I know who actively wanted her child to be gay. Her first response was, “I know, you’ve always had gay tendencies.” I think everyone knew I was a lesbian before me. Even my aunt, who I used to only see a couple of times a year told me that she always knew I was interested in girls. So while a lot of my family isn’t happy with me, I know that the ones that really matter support me no matter what.

I also have a shit ton of awesome friends, most of them being the other big gay nerds in this cast. I don’t know where I’d be without them. And there’s my wonderful girlfriend, who obviously is okay with my homosexuality. I’m so thankful to have someone as understanding and kind hearted as her to lean on when the world is against me.

Now, you’re probably my sitting there wondering, “What does this have to do with Rocky?” Well, it has everything to do with Rocky. Without this cast, I wouldn’t be who I am today. These people showed me the meaning of true acceptance no matter what. They showed me that it’s okay to be myself, it’s okay to be a princess, it’s okay to be gay. This cast isn’t just a group of people I act with-they’re a family that I cry with, laugh with, and even fight with. I know that no matter what happens in my life, where I go, these people will always be there for me and love me. And then there’s you, the audience. You guys taught me to be comfortable with myself. Because of your guys’ cheers and applause, I’ve learned that I was pretty and something special. You guys are the reason I do this.

So, long story short. I’m a pretty gay princess that owes so much to this beautiful cast. And to you guys, the audience. Without you to watch and count how many times my tits fly out of my Columbia costume, I wouldn’t have the confidence I have today.

Thank you all so much for allowing me to share my story of growth. Next time you see me at a show, be sure to come up and take a selfie with me. I fucking love selfies.

With love, Aphrodesia

Cast Blog: Mighty Mouse

October 25th, 2014

TW: anxiety, Bullying

I might be the luckiest girl ever. I’m 22, I have a decently paying job, a girlfriend I love more than anything who supports this crazy little shadow casting I do, I’m a graduate student, I’m the youngest President to grace the JCCP, and I have a family of friends who I could never imagine life without.

But, if anyone knows me for long enough (say, more than five minutes) you will quickly find I am an extremely anxious person by nature. I was born angry; my mom swears I was scowling in the ultrasound pictures of me. For all the non-psychology/human development eggheads (allow for me to dust of my useless BA in psychology); children express anxiety through anger and I was one pissed off little pipsqueak. Things didn’t help when I reached school age. I was bullied a lot starting around 5th grade. It started because I was an oddly shaped tall 11-year-old that was already half done with puberty (it was like my body wanted to be at its current sexy state, but it didn’t know how to do it). It later became because I decided to express my goth girl nature. It really fucking sucked. Kids called me boots, told me to go kill myself, made up ridiculous rumors about it, and I’ve even gotten spit on. Nonetheless, I grew a complex quickly about being good enough and what people thought of me.

I’ve also wanted to be sexy forever. I remember being about nine seeing the “Lady Marmalade” video with Lil Kim, Xtina, and Pink and I was like “Woah, I can’t wait to grow boobs.” Well, they never really came (unless I’m in a particular corset) but I have found a ridiculous amount of self-esteem out of being sexy. Sexiness has been an adventure of definition marked with a slew of bad choices on the way (you’re only nineteen once!). But I have learned that as long as you think you’re sexy, you feel like you’re sexy: fuck em, you are sexy.

Rocky gives me a chance to put on a different skin. For a minute, I’m not the manager or the grad student; I’m Frank n Furter, I’m Rocky, I’m Eddie, I’m Mighty Mouse! I’m sexy, independent, and I fucking rock. I don’t care what you think because I know that I’m hot. Let me show you my ass because you’re going to love every second of it. And it’s liberating as heck!

Through Rocky I have found my chance to be the girl to avenge my middle school aged self who was told she wasn’t pretty, never good enough. My anxious nature melts from my skin, because I’m not that girl who is freaking out over little details or sad about something. I’m a character on a stage in the here and now getting a chance to not be me for an hour and a half (as horrible as that may sound).

It’s also taught me to harness my anxious energy for good as well. I take ridiculous pride in my costumes and make up with an aim to be pretty flawless. While I can shed my anxiety from stepping on the stage, don’t think for a second I’m not looking at every detail up to the second I step on the stage. And it pays off. I don’t put on half ass shows. My job is to entertain and wow and it’s one of the things my anxious energy harnesses a valuable product.

So, my lessons here are: 1. If you’re getting bullied, it will get better. You don’t deserve an ounce of it, but it will get better. 2. Find something you love doing, and rock the fuck out of it. 3. We all have our problems, a lot of us suffer from things existing and processing in our heads. You’re still a valuable human being with something to give the world. 4. Find strengths in your weaknesses 5. You’re fucking sexy. Love yourself because you’re beautiful.

Mighty Mouse

 

Cast Blogs: Scarlet, “Rocky Horror Actually Saved My Life”

October 3rd, 2014

The other day, my Aunt asked me a question that for the life of me I could not answer.

What would my life be if I had not been allowed to go see Rocky 5 years ago?

My first response was “I don’t even know how to answer this.” My life has completely changed thanks to this show and friends I made.

My whole life I was the good girl. I could get away with murder in High school, if I wanted to. I was someone who was absolutely not ok with herself. I was super uncomfortable with what I looked like and how my body was. I spent a lot of time secretly being jealous everyone who lived an “exciting life” only because I was too scared to live my own. To add to this, I was a super closet case and I didn’t find out what gay meant till I was a freshman and it was an embarrassing moment in my life.

I was so confused. I thought it was a perfectly normal- (Look at the relationships between Frank and Rocky. Frank and Brad. Mags and Cols!). How was this not ok? It was confusing and scary when I thoughts of why was I different and not considered normal. The only thing that kept me company was The Rocky Horror Picture show. I would watch it, listen to it and see it live. It was the first place I felt normal and safe. I was not worried about being made fun of and I could be completely myself. It was a safe space everyone where everyone was totally ok with their sexuality and I felt accepted and loved. When I had a rough day at school and would just want to die, I would listen to “Superheros”-Brad’s verse really speaks to me.

Flash forward to my first few months in Pittsburgh, I had just moved here from California and was ready to become the person I always wanted to be. However those ugly demons came back! I was looking for something, anything– which I would have never done in California. It was time for me to start living “my exciting life”! I found a double feature of Rocky and The Return Of The Living Dead, I thought –Well this would be amazing I should do it and I did!

Again those feelings of self-doubt came in. When I first started in cast I wanted to play Magenta as she was the polar opposite of me dark and mysterious and well very sexual. Those were traits I didn’t have. It was so scary at first because she was ok with herself and I was not. A few months came and went and I was switched to Columbia that was ok for about second but I really wanted Janet. I knew I would not be able to play her because I was so scared to be half naked for most of the movie. I started out slow I was playing Columbia and then played Trixie (the lips), once I got through that Janet was a breeze. Rocky helped me be ok with my body I am beautiful and sexy and that’s great.

When I moved here and joined cast I became the person I always wanted to be. Joining Rocky was a risk. It was a decision that I will never regret. I moved out, got crazy, met so many new people and have made a whole new family. The best part about this cast is embracing people with common interests and making them your family! Rocky Horror actually saved my life and now I don’t have to be jealous of people living an exciting life because I’m one of them and I’m extremely grateful!

Cast Blog: q-pa, “Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the JCCP”

September 3rd, 2014

I’m the last person you’d expect to be here–let alone stick around.  I was a shy kid from central-PA with a good family but very few friends.  I was relatively sheltered, being an older brother and watching little TV.  –Oh, and I’ve had a stutter for as long as I can remember.
The story of my time since then has been coming to terms with myself, finding comfortable methods for self-expression and seeking out new experiences & adventures.  Some have had a lasting effect, while others simply ran off me like water.  Some barriers I’ve broken, while others I’ve merely sidestepped and others I’m still working on.  And Rocky–more specifically this cast–has given me an opportunity to do all of this.

I wandered into it almost by accident.  I feel unlike a lot of my peers I wasn’t destined to do this.  I knew of shadowcasting & had a tremendous respect for theater, but I was not one for jumping in front of an audience or even being too “wild & untamed” (though I was always a wannabe class clown…).  I reluctantly auditioned on a friend’s out-of-the-blue recommendation after telling her about their Halloween show and somehow, somehow I kept coming back.
After 3 months running lighting (literally me sitting in the front row of the Oaks Theater holding a desk lamp) I was thrown into the Criminologist role with just 24 hours notice.  When I got up there in my suit (“my only suit”), something clicked…  I found this was a space where my disability didn’t matter; I could lip-sync without a speech impediment to hold me back.  I could truly spread my wings—steadier, darker wings of my own making.  There was a (makeshift) theatrical space that needed filling, and audience that needed entertainment, somebody to listen to, and I was more than happy to oblige.  I still believe given an open stage and a blank slate, amazing things can happen.

And as nearly any shadowcaster across the country will tell you, one of the greatest things about this community is (almost) no matter who you are, you’ll be welcomed here.  Anywhere on the Kinsey Scale (gay/straight spectrum), hyper-sexual or asexual, “theater people” and amateur actors, self-proclaimed attention whores and shy kids looking for an outlet.  How I wish I had had something like this growing up in the suburbs, where anything counter-cultural was in short supply.  (The “Pennsyltucky” reputation is accurate, BTW…)
And I’ve discovered that almost everyone has a story to tell (hence these blogs!)  I almost minored in sociology in college, and my time in the JCCP has taught me a great deal about people, interactions between them and life itself:

 

* I believe people are always striving to find their true selves–or at least seeking things out that reflect them.  There are many false paths and if something doesn’t fit, don’t try to force it.  Yet, can any of us say we’re the same people we were when we first started doing Rocky?  I joined chasing the fumes of high school stage crew and anxious to break out of whatever kind of shell I was in.  But I later realized that I had already, largely done that; this is just who I was.
When you first join a cast and still trying to find your voice & range, some roles and aspects thereof will come easier to you while others won’t.  There’s a reason I’m best as “Crim,” Brad and Rocky: they all reflect aspects of my personality–as seen trough a funhouse mirror.  I’m a loopy loner lost in his own world, a sometimes-goofy square, and a full-grown adult masking naivety respectively.  I learned some time ago that I’m not a natural Eddie or a Riff (though I’d like to try those roles again someday) and I don’t think I have a Columbia in me, though I can play a funny, loose Janet.  And very few people are a natural Frank, the “Black Swan” of our little production.
But Rocky Horror–especially our version of it–is not for everybody…

* “People change, friends leave and time doesn’t stop for anybody.”  I’ve seen cast members come and go.  Some stuck around, while others barely gave me enough time to remember their faces.  And that’s okay.  “Time is fleeting” and you can’t exactly control where the path of life takes you…
And at least once you’ll find yourself in our basement on the night of a show in tears (yes, even me), facing the decision whether to go on with the show or not.  Hint: Unless you’re a complete mess you probably should, you won’t regret it.

* People–even the seemingly strong ones–have silent struggles they’re dealing with.  My entire life until recently I thought I was abnormal for my constant second-guessing and over-analyzing.  I would get mad at myself for getting mad at myself…  But throughout the Rocky community I’ve seen so many amazing people (in every sense of the word) doubt their talents/abilities and sell themselves short.  Even if I see no reason for them to do so.

Thankfully, with Robin Williams’ recent suicide this issue is now in the spotlight more than ever before.  They say that kids think adults have it (whatever “it” is) all figured out–until they become adults themselves and realize that every one of us is just winging it.  Almost every one in this cast has surprised me in some way during our time together.  Be sympathetic and try not to make assumptions, as hard as that can be.

* You can’t merely will something into existence; somebody has to cross that line and turn thoughts into actions.  In my experiences, things get done when people care enough to organize and get them done.  We have countless preshows and hypothetical theme-shows stored away in our brains or on scraps of paper–some sitting there literally for years.  Meanwhile, we have a well-organized stage crew, have marched in the Pittsburgh Pride parade, and teamed up with other shadow casts & organizations to do some really cool things, thanks largely to the individuals who worked to make them a reality.
…And I was corralled into creating our website once it became known I possessed the skills to do it. 😛

* Learn to laugh at yourself.  I think I’ve always been one of the “serious ones” both inside & outside of cast…  I’m known as a perfectionist (when I care enough) and have a harder time letting go of “fucks” than others.  But more than anything else, this is perhaps the greatest thing I’ve learned in Rocky.
Even when mishaps happen, they’ll make great stories that you’ll bond over & laugh about later, so don’t sweat them.  Almost all of us have at least one embarrassing story from our time in Rocky.  There’s been derpy moments, technical glitches that have either stopped us cold or forced us to persevere (and brought us closer as a result), and more wardrobe malfunctions than I care to count.  My greatest dishonor we refer to as the “Snowpocalypse Incident”–and that’s all I’m going to say about it.

 

Some may say that Rocky Horror saved their lives–and that’s definitely true; I’ve seen it happen. But for me, it’s guided & complimented it in all its shifts & turns.  I’ve surprised myself more times than I can count, yet I still feel like all of it is a natural extensions of “me.”  So I suppose you could say that being in the JCCP has helped me reached my full potential, heh.
I still love defying stereotypes and expectations.  And I still love the theater and the genuine magic it’s capable of.  And much like Lord Buttonfly mentioned last month, Rocky gives me another plane of existence in which to try on new hats and experience things outside of the mainstream and outside of my comfort zone.  I’m incredibly grateful I happened upon it.

Cast Blog: Lord Buttonfly

August 4th, 2014

By the time you read this, in addition to being out of my head, I may be dead. Don’t take that literally, I’ll be a-okay physically. What I mean is the persona I’m writing this in will be retired until I come back from college, or wherever I end up going. Lord Button Fly and I are unalike in few ways; he’s better at talking to girls than I am (he learned from watching Stamos). Our personal lives are also quite different. (F) You see (K), after each  Rocky  showing, I go home, get 3-4 hours of rest, get up, maybe shower and shave if I’m not too fucked up, put on my fancy clothes, and go to church.

Okay, so you can go to church and Rocky, no big deal right? Well, my case is a little more unique than that. I have been Jewish for my entire life, a fact that I’ve never told the people at my church who pay me to play music in their Gospel band on Sundays. They never asked if I found The Messiah or not, so I didn’t tell. I like both my church audience and the audience I play to with The JCCP, although I prefer the Rocky one because they can be a lot more funny. However, after working with both for some time now, I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between the two audiences.

Juxtaposing religion and Rocky is not original; the idea of going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show as some sort of Dionysian ritual has been around for a while. A less frequently used comparison is comparing going to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show to going to church the next morning. First off, the two are both types of communities, albeit communities with different views of humor, drag, and sexuality, but communities none the less. A lot of the same people show up at every opportunity, and on certain holidays they get a much larger audience (Halloween and Easter respectively). Although the people who come to Rocky are a lot of heterogenous than the ones come to church, they still have a common: they want to see friends, and be told a story. At Rocky, seldom do you see people coming alone, unless they’re ultra regulars. You may recognize them as the loud people in the front row. Of course, not everyone in the audience of Rocky is friends outside of the theater, but that’s true for church as well.

As for the story part, at the end of the day, The Holy Bible and The Rocky Horror Picture Show are both stories with characters, sin, and little to no real plot. Storytelling is a key component all religious communities, if not religion as a whole. There’s a reason why Futurama envisioned a religion being built around Star Trek; it’s because it has a huge community that’s formed because they all know the same story.  If our regulars could memorize holy texts as well as they have memorized the call-backs, they would all have Ph.Ds in theology. What makes telling the same story over and over again interesting is all the different ways we can extrapolate from it. Just as the same Bible verse can have multiple interpretations, audience members might have different callbacks, or the actors might have new characterizations.

Speaking of actors, from working in the church, I’ve learned that a pastor is just another type of actor. At the church where I worked the pastor had a dubious past and a bizarre personal life, but if you listened to one of his sermons, you’d swear he was the most upstanding man on the face of the planet. Even after I learned about his past, he was so damn convincing I forgot about it a month after I started working at the church. I’m not saying our personal lives are strange, but I am saying that our stage personas are different than our real personalities. A fair amount of us are shy, but when it comes to preaching and Rocky, you can’t be shy in front of an audience. The difference between me and my persona is vast.

My stage persona doesn’t really kick in until I’m on the stage, or in drag. When I’m in drag it becomes easier for me to reinvent myself because it’s like I’m inside a different body. I act and react in a way I think this other person would, as opposed to the way I normally would. As for when I’m on stage, something just kicks and all of the sudden I lose my senses of shame and fear and I feel like I can do anything. When I’m doing neither of those things, I’m just myself. My real-life persona is very anxious, shy, and insecure, almost the exact opposite of my stage persona. I consider this a testament to the power of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Moving on, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and church are heavily based in ritual. The JCCP has The Virgin Game, The pre show, the reciting of The 8 Rules, a cast prayer to Tim Curry, and the callbacks you hear at each show are an example. The music that I play at my church is to my service what the pre show/virgin games are to each showing of Rocky; something different to spice things up. And in the same way some songs become classics, the same for certain virgins games. That’s why we do fake an orgasm so often.

So when historians look back at Rocky in 1,000 years, will they see a cult fanbase, or an actual cult? That part is more up to the librarians of the future than anyone else, although one example of a movie spawning a religion has already happened in our day and age. Dudeism, a religion based on the protagonist of  The Big Lebowski, is an example of how people can take from a movie and form a worldview around the story it tells. Likewise, I wonder what my impact was in all this. As far as I know, I will have been in The JCCP for about 8 months, a miniscule amount of time by Rocky cast standards. I don’t know whether or not I will be able to rejoin one day, or find myself in the clutches of another cast. I don’t know what my persona will be like in the future. The only thing I know I will do is pass on the stories like the shamans of so many tribes once did. The story of Brad and Janet, the story of the brotherhood that resurrected those characters on Saturday nights in The Hollywood Theater in Dormont, and the story of Lord Buttonfly and how he conquered his stagefright. Perhaps the young lord may find another theater to call his temple one day.

However, many theaters around the world are struggling to show Rocky because of financial issues thanks to the advent of megaplexes. Rocky could become as extinct as the pagan cults of the ancient world if not enough people continue to offer their attention towards it. If you want The Rocky Horror Picture Show to have survived for 1,000 years, then make it so! Come out and support your local theater and cast. If you live anywhere near Pittsburgh, you know where to find us.

Cast Blogs: Sam the Hobo, “Seven Years”

July 15th, 2014

The JCCP decided to highlight a cast member monthly and first up is Sam The Hobo! Enjoy her blog (WE DID!) and come see her and the rest of our cast perform THIS SATURDAY at The Hollywood Theater at midnight!

 

To: The Hollywood Theater

Seven years is a long time to be doing anything. If this were a relationship, I believe that we would be married. Alas, no matter how hard we try, one cannot marry fishnets. Seven years is a long time to be running around a public place in skimpy clothing. People might start to talk if they realize how long I’ve been doing this stuff. People might get the wrong idea. People will say I’m in love!

Through the seven years, I’ve seen many personalities come and go. Dictators, dummies, dicks, tits, those too caring and others not enough, the spaz, the slut, the pretty ones, the mean and meaningful – all of these personalities have come and gone and some even have stayed. We all know those personalities don’t we? I’m talking to you Confessions of a Transylvanian. Yes, those tropes do exist and run the cast. However, that is in any group of friends, particularly those in the dramatic groupings. So, what is so different about cast than just a bunch of broke weirdos? Well, the hunting lodge of course. Or, as we call it, the theater.

Movie theaters are a central part of the Rocky Horror experience. As we know, watching the movie at home is merely masturbation. It’s nothing like the real shebang; like sex. There is nothing like being in a theater, getting hit with toilet paper and toast, getting sat upon, danced with and sacrificed to an audience (hopefully) full of people. Not many things are like that. Rocky Horror was made for the movie theater experience. Hell, “Science Fiction, Double Feature” is practically a love song written to theaters that show off-the-wall sci fi movies. The glory and “bigness” of the screen, sound, and performances are loved while in a slightly uncomfortable seat with a drink and popcorn at your side (a few prop bags, bondage bears, and perhaps even friends may accompany as well). Some movies are just meant to be seen in a theater. The theater is where movie and performance meet and what creates “Shadowcasting” as an event.

When the cast was first starting out, it was a ragtag bunch that was based in the memories of the “Good Ol’ Days” of the 80s and 90s JCCP cast that performed at the King’s Court Theater in Oakland. Even today, we are reminded of those long ago times. “Oh, I remember Rocky Horror – at the King’s Court right?” is slurred in the usual Pittsburgh-ese, lovingly translated for all of you non-yinzers. At the beginning of this rendition of cast, we had nothing at all. No theater. No real meeting place sans broken down couches in student living apartments or a usual Eat N’ Park table. We barely had enough people for a full cast list. Events that we did were in colleges around Halloween time, bars, and in backyards. Yes. I said it. Back-fucking-yards. At times we even went to theaters in West Virginia just for the chance to perform. It felt more like a tree fort clubhouse than an actual cast.

A theater changes everything. Having a place to perform regularly is worth more than Tim Curry’s panties to a cast. The cast structure becomes based around the style of the theater. The Hollywood Theater, where we perform now, has become our home. I believe that every cast member has had meals there, slept there, spilled their heart and souls there, and have called it “home.” The comradely actions of the cast come from having a theater to go to, meet at, and hang out in. It’s great business for them and great for us as well. We don’t have to lug our props, costumes and things to and fro. Just that storage provides us as a way to see what we have and get better things knowing that they will be well taken care of there. Since we have a theater, we have accumulated better costume pieces including hand-made spacesuits (Thank you Tits!), many wigs, a Columbia tailcoat (Again, thank you Tits!), and even random prop pieces from specialty shows (The Batmobile being my personal favorite).

The JCCP has a strange look at characterization. We are not the cast that ALL MUST BE SCREEN ACCURATE OR PERISH. Instead, we deviate our characterization for the sake of comedy. As many audience members know, when I play Doctor Scott (Seig Heil), I characterize him as the late great Charlie Chaplin. Doctor Scott (Seig Heil) is a difficult character to make interesting as a screen accurate rendition. Let’s be serious here. Between you and me, he is a mustachioed old man in a wheelchair that never wanted to be mixed up in the show. He came looking for Eddie and wheeled himself into a floorshow. As Chaplin, I try to highlight the ridiculousness. Bigger reactions and gags have their place in Rocky and I just have a new take on it with an ode to the old. I should hope that Richard O’Brien would enjoy it with all of his odes for Sci Fi that I could have one to a silent movie star. Having a certain mustache that equates to Nazism much like how adding the word “von” to a name equates to the same idea is a laugh to me as well.

However, I wouldn’t be able to do such things without a regular show and a crowd to experiment on. Samwise interpretively dancing to “Superheroes”, Zombie shows, even specialty shows of Clue, Reefer Madness, Crybaby, and Phantom of the Paradise wouldn’t happen or have us involved with it without having a theater like The Hollywood Theater to call home. Can you imagine the confusion if we did those things on a college campus once every 6 months-year? It wouldn’t work. People expect The Rocky Horror Picture Show experience. At our theater, we offer the JCCP experience. A cult following only survives with repetition. A routine of yelling “Asshole” and “Slut” paved the way to more callbacks. It is an evolving creature with its idiosyncrasies and humor based around certain perimeters, the movie. The same goes for a shadowcast. Performing the same thing opens up creative outlets and boundaries to abide by. Yes, it’s Chaplin, but I still use the wheelchair and the same blocking. With many of the great shadowcast actors, you see the mix of interesting characterizations on certain boundaries in the character. And I would bet that all of the actors have a theater to perform at regularly.

I was asked to write a little blog by my cast and on what was up to me. Seven years is a lot of experience, memories and content to go through for a blog, so I decided to narrow the spectrum. Without a theater, I wouldn’t be writing this. Simple as that. The Hollywood Theater, the home of The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players, ties together everything I would think to write about for the blog. It is the reason why the JCCP is shaped as it is, why the people who are in cast are in the cast, how we got the characterizations we have. The lifeblood of this show is the movie theater.

Love: Sam the Hobo